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Michelle Hughes: Family is everything to me

In Portland, Victoria, Michelle Hughes is the Director of Assets Real Estate, a family agency where success is measured not by the awards on the wall or the ratings on social media, but rather by good old-fashioned service, and standing in the community.

When Assets Real Estate Director Michelle Hughes looks back over a 44-year career of real estate achievement, her story is not focused on accolades and million-dollar sales but rather the success of family.

She measures her personal achievement by the fact her husband, Kevin; three children Ben, Josh and Ebony; and daughter-in-law Katrina all contentedly work within the business, supported by an extended family of loyal staff, many who have been with them for decades.

This emphasis on long-term relationships extends to the community that Assets Real Estate operates in.

Comprising an office in the coastal town of Portland and another in the more rural location of Heywood, the agency’s community is the type where people know each other by name, and good service is rewarded with patronage.

“We’re a community-minded real estate agency that works to be the best at what they do,” Michelle humbly notes.

TAUGHT BY ONE OF THE BEST

Michelle’s journey into real estate is one where the career found her.

At 16, she had dreams of being an interior designer when she happened to win a local speaking competition and was approached by industry icon and First National co-founder Reg Hedditch.

A man Michelle describes as ahead of his time, Reg offered her a position as his assistant at the Heywood office.

“I was in Year 11 at the time, and if something’s put in front of you in a small country town, you consider it,” Michelle explains.

“Back then it was typewriters, copy paper and everything was manual.

“There was a strict routine where you did as you were asked, collected the mail, emptied ashtrays, and made coffee.”

That role steadily increased, with Michelle taking on further responsibility for the business administration.

It was an experience that kindled her deep passion for real estate and leadership.

“I love watching people buy and sell homes,” Michelle explains.

“I love working on the management side, the figures and the motivation.”

As the years went on, Reg relied on Michelle to manage the business more and more, and by the late ’90s when he was working from home, she was his eyes and ears at both offices, relaying everything that was going on.

“He was a great man who taught me a lot, much of which I still put into practice to this day,” Michelle reflects.

“He taught me how to understand people and what makes them tick.

“He taught me there’s always a way to work through things.”

Reg passed away in 2004, and together, six staff, including Michelle, purchased the business, rebranding and bringing in a fresh image.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

The staff partnership was ultimately so successful it lasted 13 years before different opportunities beckoned, and partners began moving on to forge a new path.

“We always vowed we would never stand in the way of someone wanting out,” Michelle explains.

“Initially, I thought we weren’t in a position to buy out the business as a company, but Reg taught me there’s always a solution.

“At the time my husband, daughter and daughter-in-law were working in the business and I asked the girls if they’d consider coming on board as partners.”

Although it might have been a neat solution, Michelle notes it was not a decision she entered into lightly.

“Family is everything to me, and I really wouldn’t be able to live with myself if our family was to fall apart because of work,” she says.

These days, Assets Real Estate is entirely family-run, with two of Michelle’s sons also joining the business, and there are strict ground rules in place to ensure each member feels valued and appreciated.

Michelle explains these include open communication, a commitment to having each other’s back, and a resolve to appreciate that while each family member may be on a different journey, the end goal is the same.

“Everyone has to be on board with the same values,” Michelle says.

“I don’t care whether someone thinks they’re right or wrong, they have to have each other’s back.

“And there must be 100 per cent respect for employees, and 200 per cent respect for each other.” 

Michelle admits as a mother, the idea of running a family business gave her “plenty of sleepless nights,” but the structure works, and the results speak for themselves.

ACHIEVING RESULTS

The past few years have proved excellent for Assets Real Estate.

Since 2017, they have doubled their annual sales commissions.

They manage a rent roll of more than 600 properties and even during COVID, met and exceeded sales targets.

They generally average 27 sales a month, but in February, just before lockdown, they sold 53 properties.

March to May were steady, while in June they sold 36 and July saw them sell 40.

They are currently the largest real estate agency in the area, with six sales agents, three sales PAs, a full-time marketing consultant, five property managers, two office managers, a receptionist and Michelle at the administrative helm.

“We’ve been making an astounding amount of sales, so I guess we’re doing something right,” Michelle says.

COMMUNITY AND CULTURE

That “something right” might largely be attributed to the agency’s commitment to community and culture.

Staff are considered an extension of the family, while the community which supports them is equally important.

“We are all involved in the community and try to put as much into our region as it gives to us,” Michelle says.

“We’ve always tried to look after people. Reg always treated me like family and that now carries through.”

Some of the former partners have even returned to work in the business, while other staff have been with the group for decades.

“I am of the strong belief that if you look after your staff to the best of your ability and support them in every way, they, in turn, will look after your clients,” Michelle states.

In the process, Assets Real Estate is selling properties or managing them for clients who have been with them for generations.

“The people we are selling to now are the grandchildren of those I remember from my early days,” Michelle says.

“My son recently sold a property to an older couple who were Reg’s friends and they loved him.

“People continue to come to us for the care factor and to see that feedback warms my heart.”

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